150 Boise Icons: Trees of Gernika

awebb@idahostatesman.comApril 25, 2013 

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Did you know? You will find oak imagery throughout the Basque Block, including in the mural facing Capitol Boulevard at Grove Street painted in 2000 by the Letterheads, a group of sign painters, and on the sculptures of the laiaks (Basque tilling tools) that make the entrance to the block. Ward Hooper made the sculptures in 2000.


In the 1980s, Boise's Basque community received three saplings from a famous oak in Gernika, Boise's sister city in the Basque Country in Spain. The ancient tree was a meeting place for Basque lawmakers through the centuries. It survived bombing during the Spanish Civil War and came to represent freedom, democracy and identity for the Basque people.

Officials and community members planted one of the saplings at the Idaho Statehouse. Vandals stole the sapling and replaced it with a twig.

Luckily, Idaho had two more saplings.

Pete Cenarrusa, Idaho's secretary of state at the time, planted one of them on the Statehouse grounds.

Basque President Jose Antonio Ardanza, making his first U.S. visit in 1988, planted the other seedling on the Basque Block in the front lawn of the Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga House.

Crews relocated the Statehouse tree during the recent Capitol renovation. It now grows near the southwest corner of 4th and Washington, just west of the Ruth Moon rose garden.

Boise resident Julian Achabal propagated seedlings from the tree on Grove Street. Achabal died in December 2011, but his trees - arboreal grandchildren of the tree in the Basque Country - are thriving.

One is at 6th and Grove in front of the Basque Museum. Another is growing at the Basque Cultural Center in Gooding.

The symbolic oak in the Basque Country is actually a dynasty of four trees planted between the 14th century and 2004. The third tree is the tree that survived the bombing of Gernika in 1937 and provided the Boise saplings; it died in 2004. Gardeners replaced it with a descendent that grows today.


Æ Idaho State Arbor Day Celebration: 10 a.m., Friday, Capitol Park, 7th and Jefferson Streets. Officials will plant a tree to honor former state Controller Donna Jones. The ceremony will include awards for community foresters and poetry from Taft Elementary students.

Æ Free seedlings from a 1-year-old blue spruce grown at the University of Idaho will be available statewide Friday at Home Depot and FedEx offices.

Æ ReLeaf Boise: The city's annual volunteer tree-planting program takes place throughout Boise on Saturday. Call 384-4083.

Æ Nampa: Canyon County Parks & Rec holds a brown-bag lunch and educational program at Lake Lowell Park at noon Friday, followed by tree planting along the Story Trail, 12880 Iowa Ave. Call 440-4600.

Æ Meridian: The Parks & Recreation Department and Meridian Elementary School will hold a tree-planting ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the school, 1035 NW 1st Street. Call 489-0538.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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